What type of used car should I buy?

Hello. I am looking to buy a used car within the price range of $3-6,000 and less than 125k miles on it. Does anyone know of a good car to buy? One that will hold up well, with GOOD gas mileage and inexpensive repairs. Please only comment if you actually have some car knowledge or … if you have bought a car like this recently that you are happy or unhappy with your comments are appreciated.

Any used car is a a roll of the dice. It’s not the make of the car so much as how it was driven and maintained.
A thorough inspection by a competent mechanic can increase your odds of getting a comparatively trouble-free car but even the finest of inspections is not a sure fire bet.

With the kind of money you’re talking about you should be able to find a very nice vehicle with less than 125k miles on it.

What’s the keys? Do your homework on the car in question, use a lot of patience during a car search, and if possible give the car a thorough test drive (not any of those Mickey Mouse drive around the block tests) with the radio off and conversation kept to an absolute minimum. You want to focus solely on how the car drives, and any noises or vibrations, etc. that may crop up.

Go to the library and read Consumer Reports Magazine’s “Annual Auto Issue.”

It has lots of recommendations for good used cars sorted by price range.

It also has a list of “Used Cars to Avoid,” which is very important information to have. You don’t want to buy a used car that is known to be unreliable.

Personally, one of my favorite inexpensive used cars is the Chevrolet (Geo) Prizm. The Prizm is a Toyota Corolla sold by Chevrolet dealers, and it, along with its Corolla clone, is one of the most reliable vehicles on the planet.

There are others, too, such as the Nissan Sentra, the Honda Civic, and the Mazda Protege. That’s an incomplete list.

As with any used car, maintenance by the former owner(s), or lack thereof, makes a big difference. If you don’t know the maintenance history you’re rolling the dice.

2005 or earlier Chevy Cavalier, 2004 or earlier Chevy Malibu. The Cavalier will be especially cheap because it was phased out in 2005. As an older generation car, it was surpassed by more modern cars of the same size, like a Civic. The older Malibus are plain and often overlooked. But they are reliable. As OK4450 said, any oder car is only reliable if it was well maintained. Find something owned by a senor citizen. It should be low mileage and could be in great condition. By the time someone reaches 50 or 60, they have figured out how to make a car last a while so they can spend their money on other things than basic transportation.

Something like a Corolla (or its Prism/Vibe twins), Civic, or Sentra would be good.

Thank you all for your helpful information! I really appreciate it! And I’ll definitely check out that Consumer Reports Magazine.

Domestics are often overlooked by people in the market for a used car because “American” is too often thought of as being synonymous with “junk” or “unreliable” when neither are necessarily the case. jtsanders mentioned the Cavalier and Malibu as being good bets, and I will agree. GM made a lot of them, mostly to meet the CAFE standards so they could make the trucks and SUVs people really wanted to buy. Depending on what kind of car you want to drive, the Buick Park Avenue and LeSabre are really nice cars, and they also have one of the best engines ever made in them (3.8L Buick V6). It’s a big, powerful, comfortable car with a huge trunk that gets about 30mpg. If you want something that looks a little sportier, the Pontiac Bonneville is the same car with different skin. Both of these cars, particularly the Buicks, were quite popular with the ‘blue hair’ set, so finding a clean, well-maintained, low mileage example should be fairly easy.

Any used car is a a roll of the dice. It’s not the make of the car so much as how it was driven and maintained. Very true.

The rest of OK’s message is also very good advice.